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Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative cleaning party and the party goers. Photo by Lori Stevenson/USFWS.

Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative cleaning party and the party goers. Photo by Lori Stevenson/USFWS.

Members of the Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative collecting seeds from milkweed pods. Photo by Lori Stevenson/USFWS.

Members of the Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative collecting seeds from milkweed pods. Photo by Lori Stevenson/USFWS.

Winter Milkweed Seed Cleaning Party in Ohio

What do you do during the winter months?

You might say that you cross country ski, sled, ice fish, play broomball or even watch your favorite ice hockey team. Believe it or not, another activity has been added to the list; cleaning milkweed seeds to be used for propagation to support monarch butterflies for years to come.

The monarch butterfly is a pollinating insect and its numbers are dwindling. In Ohio, the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, and many other agencies, clubs and organizations have joined together to form a statewide network of partners called the Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative. The Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative works together throughout the state to provide education, outreach, hands-on conservation, native seed collections and technical assistance to all that have an interest in conserving monarch and pollinator habitat across Ohio.

One way to help pollinators is to provide proper plants to support the different stages during a pollinator’s life cycle. An important plant that supports the monarch butterfly is the milkweed plant, also called the monarch flower. The monarch butterfly is dependent on milkweed as its host plant, where it lays its eggs. The disappearance of milkweed across the landscape is one of the leading factors in the decline of the monarch population. Through the Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative, a milkweed seed collection – propagation project was started in 6 counties in the state, with the intent of establishing milkweed plants for monarchs and other pollinators. Last fall Licking County Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative volunteers collected boxes and bags full of swamp and common milkweed pods for the milkweed seed collection – propagation project and brought them to the Licking County Agriculture Service Center in Newark, located in east central Ohio. During the winter months members of the local Licking County Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative group gathered at the Agriculture Service Center for “milkweed seed cleaning parties,” to clean the milkweed seed to be used for propagation in the spring.

“The milkweed seeds were cleaned by removing seeds and fluff or the silk from the milkweed pods,” says Lori Stevenson, Ohio State Coordinator for the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program. “The plan for this local milkweed seed collection project is to collaborate with the Licking County community partners to propagate the milkweed seeds for planting this spring.”

The milkweed seeds will be propagated or grown by the Licking County community partners and the seeds will be planted at several scientifically influential sites across Ohio such as at schoolyard habitats to provide educational experiences for students, restoration projects to create pollinator habitat for monarch butterflies and Ohio County Park Districts that will be in the long-term protection and provide monarch habitat for the public to enjoy.

Projects with a common goal such as monarch and pollinator conservation can bring communities together. The Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative is composed of many different groups and organizations such as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program and the Ecological Services Office, Licking Soil Water Conservation District, Licking County Recycling Department, Licking County Park District, Ohio State University-Extension, Ohio State University Master Gardeners, Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalists, Dawes Arboretum, Granville school students, Ohio Department of Natural Resources-Division of Wildlife, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Ohio Department of Transportation, American Electric Power, Pheasants Forever and many more.

To learn more about the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program visit our website.

To learn more about the Save the Monarch Initiative visit our website.

By Alejandro Morales
Regional Office - External Affairs

Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative member removing the fluff from milkweed pods. Photo by Lori Stevenson/USFWS.

Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative member removing the fluff from milkweed pods. Photo by Lori Stevenson/USFWS.

 

Last updated: February 4, 2016